Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Letter to the Governors on the Need for Improving State Law Enforcement Systems and Gun Control Legislation.

June 20, 1968

Dear Governor________:

I write to you today because as Chief Executives we share a common concern and a powerful purpose--to wipe the stain of crime from States and cities and neighborhoods of America.

Last night I signed the Safe Streets and Crime Control Act of 1968. The heart of this new law is Title I. It gives you the unparalleled opportunity--and confronts you with the urgent obligation--to strengthen law enforcement and criminal justice throughout your State.

For the first time in our Nation's history, the Federal Government will be able to devote substantial resources--$400 million over the next two years--to supplement the efforts of States and cities to:

--Better train, equip and pay policemen, the blue line of defense against the robber and the racketeer, the murderer and the mugger.

--Streamline and improve their over-burdened and over-taxed court systems and their outmoded correctional institutions.

--Apply the most advanced scientific techniques to prevent crime and to ferret out the criminal.

We have achieved the breakthrough. Now you must act to follow through.

The law places primary responsibility on your shoulders.

I hope that you will develop imaginative and comprehensive anti-crime blueprints and action programs with the cities and counties in your State to use wisely and efficiently and promptly the new Federal funds this act now makes available.

I urge you to examine carefully and to improve your law enforcement systems and to support the brave men who wage the hourly and daily battle against crime on the front lines of the city street, the alleys, and the local neighborhoods.

I urge you again to review your gun control laws and to speed work on the development of stringent legislation to assure that deadly weapons are kept out of the hands of the criminal, the demented, the alcoholic, and those too young to bear the terrible responsibility of owning weapons of destruction. We are moving to develop an airtight system of interstate protection. The Congress has already enacted legislation which I signed last night to control the interstate sale of hand guns which account for a majority of the firearm murders in this country. Last week I urged Congress to cover shotguns and rifles. We will appreciate any support you may feel you want to give us. We will consider further legislative gun measures once the Congress acts on this one. But we must now act to perfect this network within your State to shield our homes and families from the horrors of murder at muzzle point.

For your information, I am enclosing a copy of my statement when I signed the Safe Streets and Crime Control Act of 1968. I pledge to you the full support of all the agencies of the Federal Government in this new crime-fighting partnership which this new law makes possible. I have asked the Attorney General and my Assistant for Federal-State Relations, Governor Price Daniel, to cooperate in every way with you.

The hour is late but there is still time--if we take full advantage of the golden opportunity which the Safe Streets Program presents to State and local officials throughout this Nation.

I ask you to enlist now in this vital effort as we seek to control crime and enlarge public safety.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to all 50 Governors following the approval of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (see Item 320). The Gun Control Act of 1968 was approved by the President on October 22, 1968 (see Item 553).

Lyndon B. Johnson, Letter to the Governors on the Need for Improving State Law Enforcement Systems and Gun Control Legislation. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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